Amazon to conduct racial-equity audit with Loretta Lynch at the helm

The giant retailer chose the former U.S. attorney general to examine its policies' impact on diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Online retail giant Amazon will conduct a racial-equity audit to examine its policies’ impact on diversity, equity and inclusion, according to a report from CNBC. The audit was disclosed in a recent proxy filing in response to a shareholder proposal. 

The audit will be led by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. 

According to the CNBC report, the audit will evaluate “any disparate racial impacts on our nearly one million U.S. hourly employees resulting from our policies, programs and practices.”

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at the New York Historical Society on June 20, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The company has said that it will make the results of the audit public. 

“Amazon has taken some measures to address racial justice and equity, including committing financial resources and publishing workforce diversity data,” the shareholder proposal states. “However, Amazon faces controversies, some significant, that pose various risks and raise questions related to the company’s overall strategy and the company’s alignment with its public statements.”

Shareholders have been asking for an independent investigation into how the company’s policies may contribute to racial inequities, and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli filed a proposal for a similar audit for the second year in a row. 

The audit comes after the company had previously pushed for shareholders to reject an independent review. They noted they have initiatives in place to address diversity and equity concerns. However, they have reversed course and are following other Fortune 500 companies to audit their practices. The report adds that the company may have been prompted by the recent surge of activism and unionizing among its hourly employees. 

A report from the Seattle Times, in the city where Amazon has its headquarters, said that several other proposals were introduced by shareholders to study ways that the company might be contributing to racial inequity, including by its health and safety practices and what shareholders called “structural bias” in pay and opportunity. One proposal also seeks an independent study of the company’s proprietary facial recognition software, Rekognition. 

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